Gabon arrival

Dec. 16, 2010                      Rabi, Gamba, Gabon

a sititunga antelope stands watchful in a Rabi swamp

We just hiked out of the forest after a beautiful morning of hiking, filming and making photographs.  In keeping with our present rainforest location, last night after dark a torrential rainstorm complete with lightening and thunder passed through, dumping inches of rain across camp in a matter of hours. My momentarily dry clothes were again soaked as we hustled over to the canteen for dinner.

Today’s weather is refreshing, the morning not too hot, with light, high clouds. But as soon as we entered the forest, the air became thick again and the humidity soaked through clothing by mid-morning.

I managed to keep cameras dry so far, though I have learned to keep them in the vehicle overnight, otherwise the air-conditioning in the room results in condensation and fogged lenses until the temperature of equipment stabilizes to air temperature. My new Canon works great, though I wish I had a reference manual in hand. The pdf manual is inconvenient as I need to steal away Lisa’s computer to access. I manage to be shooting in “Raw-plus-jpg” mode, sometimes even experimenting with HDR, and it appears that I will have a week or two before I need to download the pictures to a computer to free up more gigabytes.

Yesterday we drove the Shell-Rabi concession looking at various sites that have been logged during the past several years. Gabon has allowed a logging concession to cut trees above the Shell lease over the years, and Vincent, our guest scientist, is interested in possibly monitoring present and past activities. By logging, this is not the clear-cutting of the US Northwest. The trees here range from new shoots to perhaps a hundred-plus years old. Logging companies are looking for the mature, straight trees, usually of a certain species, to cull, and this may be less than a one tree per square kilometre in predetermined areas. Each tree needs to be individually tagged and accounted for throughout the whole process of removal from the forest, so records may be accessed. We observed numerous tree stumps in the four to six-foot diameter size, cut within the past few years. It is interesting to notice the gaping hole in the canopy and the rapid new growth beneath.

rainfall over Rabi swamp

During our drive, we came across five buffalo, mostly lounging in roadside pools, several sitatunga antelope in the swampy roadsides, a couple of elephants attempting to direct airport traffic, some monkeys flying through the tree-tops, and this morning I saw a squirrel (definitely not corn-fed) curious about my activities.

We hear birds everywhere, though rarely see them through the thick foliage. The whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the hornbills in flight is unmistakable, and ibises circle the waterholes, a few hammerkops wade in the mud puddles at the roadside. The constant singing in the forest canopy is most beautiful. Add to that the buzz and screech of the insects, and you have the forest orchestra that greets our arrival. Crickets and cicadas seem to warn of our presence, and butterflies of every color scatter throughout the forest as I hike through the understory.

The forest is stunning, intensely alive beneath the towering trees. Leaves, some up to three feet long, drift from canopy to cover the forest floor, while lianas twist and snake between earth and canopy.

Vincent flies back to Libreville later this afternoon, and afterward, Lisa and I will revisit some of the roadside views we encountered yesterday, so that I might make some photographs.

I won’t be downloading pictures until back in Yenzi village, but I should have something nice if all works well.

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